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Whether you got your stretch marks (aka stretchies, tiger stripes, or whatever you’ve named the faded or pigmented streaks on your skin) during a growth spurt in your teenage years, or you earned them during your pregnancy, know this: Stretch marks are 100 percent totally and completely normal. You’re absolutely not alone, either: roughly 80 percent of Americans have stretch marks. But your decision to either get rid of your stretch marks or live with ’em is exactly that—your decision.
If you’ve chosen not to embrace yours and would rather remove them completely, one of the cheapest possible remedies for stretch marks—albeit only temporarily—is creams. Ahead, everything you need to know about stretch mark creams: Like, if they *actually* work, how to use them, and the kind of results to expect from adding one to your routine.
Meet the experts:
- Hadley King, MD, is a dermatologist specializing in medical and cosmetic dermatology in New York, NY.
- Morgan Rabach, MD, is board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of LM Medical NYC in New York, NY.
- Shereene Idriss, MD, is a is a board-certified dermatologist, a clinical instructor in dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and founder and medical director at Idriss Dermatology in New York, NY.
What are stretch marks?
A stretch mark is the result of the collagen and elastin in the dermis, under the skin cell layer, rupturing (essentially, tearing beneath the skin) and forming a scar. As the area heals, you’re left with stretch marks. There’s also something you should know right off the bat: You can’t completely erase them.
Do stretch mark creams work?
“Stretch mark creams per se do not have any scientific evidence of working,” Dr. Rabach says. Say it with me now: womp womp. And, as it turns out, there’s no sure-fire way to avoid getting stretch marks, either, and according to Dr. Rabach, there’s even a genetic predisposition to getting them.
With that said, you can take steps as a preventative measure that might help—Dr. King points to this study—and she notes that creams may offer “mild improvement” in appearance. When stretch marks are brand new, they’re more responsive to topical treatments. “There is no one way to permanently and completely get rid of stretch marks, but we have a variety of different treatments that may make them look better,” says Dr. Rabach. If you’re genetically predisposed, creams can help with prevention too.
How to choose the best stretch mark cream
Pick the right ingredients
When it comes to fading existing stretch marks, Dr. Rabach says to prioritize one of the three ingredients that have the most data on improving or reducing the appearance of stretch marks: prescription retinol (which resurfaces and strengthens skin), silicone (which smooths the feel of marks), and hyaluronic acid (which plumps lines).
Prioritize regular use
Look at the directions on the product’s packaging, but the more you use it (especially preventatively) the more it keeps the skin soft and stretchable. King adds, “Studies have shown that taking the time to massage the product into the skin may make it more effective, so be sure to remember the massage!”
Understand what you want to achieve
One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to stretch mark creams. Some are deliberately formulated to be safe for people who are either pregnant or breastfeeding. Some work best on new stretch marks, and others are better for old scars. Some you can lather on anywhere, whereas some are particularly good for a part of the body like your belly. So assess your needs before you make your pick.
The best stretch mark creams of 2022
- Best on Amazon: Body Merry Stretch Marks & Scars Defense Cream
- Best for removal: Mederma Stretch Marks Therapy
- Best for fading stretch marks: Paula’s Choice Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment
- Best for pregnancy: Mustela Stretch Marks Cream
- Best plant-based: Evereden Nourishing Stretch Mark Cream
- Best multi-purpose: StriVectin SD Advanced Plus Intensive Moisturizing Concentrate
- Best for prevention: Burt’s Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter
- Best during pregnancy: Mustela Stretch Marks Cream
- Best drugstore cream: Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Massage Lotion for Stretch Marks
What gets rid of stretch marks permanently?
Three things can produce more lasting results, according to Dr. King: Laser therapy, microdermabrasion, and microneedling. Laser therapy stimulates collagen and elastin using a specific wavelength of light, microdermabrasion gently exfoliates outer layers of skin to stimulate collagen production, and microneedling uses microneedles (duh) to make the skin produce more collagen. In all cases, “multiple sessions will be needed to produce more noticeable results,” Dr. King says.
In the meantime, creams can be a first start if you’re trying to use a less invasive, less expensive treatment on your stretch marks—or, if you’re trying to keep from getting them in the first place. Keep scrolling for our top 15 picks.1BEST ON AMAZONBody Merry Stretch Marks & Scars Defense Cream
As one of the more affordable options on this list, you’ll be happy to know this cream for getting rid of scars and stretch marks has over 4,000 positive Amazon reviews. Although it might be impossible to remove or prevent stretch marks completely, this blend of cocoa butter, shea butter, vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin B3 (niacinamide), and vitamin B5 (panthenol) helps protect and maintain healthy skin.2BEST FOR REMOVALMederma Stretch Marks Therapy
A favorite brand for scars of all kinds, Mederma has a cream designed specifically to tackle stretch marks, thanks to the active ingredient dimethicone (a silicone) and hyaluronic acid, both of which have been shown to improve or reduce the appearance of stretch marks, according to Dr. Rabach. It’s most effective on newer stretch marks, so give this cream a try as soon as you notice new streaks.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW3BEST FOR FADING STRETCH MARKSPaula’s Choice Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body TreatmentCOURTESY IMAGE$29 AT AMAZON
Prescription-strength stretch mark formulas will always give you the best results. But, if you want to try an over-the-counter option, this body treatment uses a retinol complex to stimulate collagen production in the skin and could help fade new stretch marks that have just popped up. But—and this is super important—don’t use any retinoid when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Instead, try one of the other options on this list.4BEST FOR PREGNANCYMustela Maternity Stretch Marks Cream for Pregnancy
If you want to know what the pros and dermatologists use, Dr. Idriss turned to this stretch mark prevention cream when she was expecting her little girl. Here’s why: It has avocado peptides, which help hydrate skin and minimize any tightness, and it contains Galactoarabinan, a patented stretch mark-preventing ingredient extracted from the Larch tree that promotes elasticity. Mix both of those with moisturizing shea butter and beeswax, and you’ve got a pretty effective stretch-mark cream—recommended by Dr. King, too.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW5BEST SMOOTHINGML Manuela Lubin Delicate Beauty Advanced Stretch Mark Removal Cream
This cream contains two of the three ingredients Dr. Rabach recommends for minimizing the appearance of stretch marks: hyaluronic acid and silicones. Together, along with other humectants and moisturizers (like panthenol, glycerin, and squalane), these ingredients help smooth, plump, and improve the feel of stretch marks.6BEST PLANT-BASEDEvereden Nourishing Stretch Mark CreamCOURTESY IMAGE$45 AT AMAZON$58 AT WALMART
Thanks to the formula’s plant-based MVPs, like turmeric (which helps brighten skin) and centella asiatica (which has anti-inflammatory properties), this cream will help reduce inflammation and brighten the skin around your stretch marks.7BEST LONG-LASTINGBio-Oil Skincare Oil
In a 2018 study, more than half of participants who used Bio-Oil said their scars and stretch marks looked less pronounced. It’s rich in fatty acids and antioxidants (including mineral oil, sunflower seed oil, vitamin E, chamomile oil, lavender oil, rosemary oil, and marigold extract) to support and protect the skin.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW8BEST NON-GREASY CREAMKreyòl Essence Haitian Coffee & Coconut Body Creme
No, it’s not technically a stretch mark cream, but this non-greasy body cream includes the brand’s Haitian black castor oil, which is commonly used as a stretch mark oil, thanks its high vitamin E content. Vitamin E is known for its nourishing, moisturizing, and soothing properties—all three things you want when treating stretch marks.